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Is the Europarty over, or has it only just begun? The Importance of Party Members as a Link between Europarties and Citizens

Isabelle Hertner

In recent years, the transnational party federations at the European level ('Europarties') have become more independent from the party groups in the European Parliament. Since 2003, Europarties have their own budget and are allowed to use it for election campaigning. Moreover, all major Europarties have introduced the notion of direct membership, giving not only parties and organisations, but also individuals the opportunity to join. Does it mean that Europarties are turning into fully-fledged vote-seeking, office-seeking and policy-seeking political parties? The question of whether Europarties are political parties or not remains contested amongst EU scholars, and comparing them to their national member parties does not do them justice. After all, Europarties are federations of long-standing national parties who do not easily give up power. Instead, this paper will follow-up on a pioneering study by Hix and Lord (1997) and draw comparisons between Europarties and their US American counterparts, pointing to differences and similarities in their rather loose organisational structures. The focus of this paper will lie on the three main Europarties (the Party of European Socialists, the European Peoples Party, and the European Liberal Democrats) and the American Democrats and Republicans. Semi-structured interviews with officials from the three Europarties will provide insight into a fascinating, under-researched topic.

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